Contrary to popular belief, Hana in downtown Camas didn’t close. The space at 412 N.E. Fourth Ave. is still owned and operated by the Park family, which has been serving Korean food and teriyaki since 2017.
Some of the confusion stems from an accident a few years ago. On May 4, 2018, Agnes and her son, Phillip, were burned in a fire at the restaurant. The space was closed for two months while they recovered. During that time, Carrie Schulstad, executive director of the Downtown Camas Association, raised $20,000 to help the Parks with their expenses.
“When my mom and I got hurt and closed down, Carrie helped to keep us going. She’s very important to our business,” Phillip Park said.
Schulstad, head of the downtown association since 2014, set up a fundraiser for the Parks as soon as she heard about the fire. When she told locals about this horrible accident, they sprung into action.
“They’re such a dear family and the fact that his elderly mother was hurt, that touched a nerve,” Schulstad said. “They’re great providers in the community, and our hearts went out to them. The thought of them not being there was too much.”
Hana featured Agnes Park’s Korean recipes prepared by her and her family. Meals began the traditional way, with small bowls filled with a variety of pickled vegetables, called banchan. Korean pancakes, dumplings, steaming-hot red-chili-tinged stews and bibimbap followed. Then COVID-19 hit.
In January 2021, Phillip Park renamed the restaurant Gogi Grill and streamlined the menu. Park noticed that lunch was the most popular meal time at Hana. Most customers wanted to dine quickly instead of sitting at the table for a long traditional Korean meal. In addition, due to COVID-19, everything had to be made for takeout. While some things could be dropped from the menu, he knew that there was one item that absolutely had to stay.
“We couldn’t let the teriyaki go,” Phillip Park said.
For almost 20 years, the spot has been a place where locals get teriyaki. Park’s uncle made teriyaki in this space from 2003 to 2016 in his restaurant, Rice Time. When Park took over and opened Hana, teriyaki stayed on the menu and continued to be a bestseller.
“In the beginning of 2021, we opened Gogi Grill. It’s a melting pot of Rice Time and Hana,” Phillip Park said. “With COVID, we had to make adjustments to what food we would serve to the community.”
Gogi means meat in Korean. Mirroring this new name, the menu shifted to several quickly cooked proteins like teriyaki and bulgogi served with a choice of sides like steamed rice, yakisoba noodles, and stir fried or steamed vegetables. He kept some Korean classics like bibimbap (mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables) and japchae (stir-fried glass noodles with vegetables) on the menu.
Park got rid of stews, Korean savory pancakes and banchan. The refrigerator filled with jars of Agnes Park’s kimchi also disappeared. In their place, he added an item extremely popular in Korea: fried chicken. For this dish, tender pieces of chicken are double fried to create a light crispy coating. The fried chicken comes with a choice of spicy Korean or soy garlic sauces. The spicy version is coated in a mix of garlic, ginger, sesame oil and Korean red chili paste (gochujang). The soy garlic option is finished in a more mild garlic-infused soy sauce.
As the pandemic winds down and the team at Gogi Grill settles into this new version of the business, Park plans on bringing some of the missing dishes back as specials. His mother, Agnes, is recovering in Korea, taking a well-deserved break. However, she’ll be back in the kitchen soon, and then the glass jars of housemade kimchi will return.
Park appreciates every customer who walks into his business, but he gives special attention to Korean War Veterans. A lot of these customers like to share their stories. Park enjoys their fondness for Korean food and culture. It’s inspiring to him to see the joy they take in re-experiencing the food that they discovered during their time in Korea.
He’s also grateful for the kindness the people of Camas have shown his family throughout the years.
“The best part of owning this restaurant is being in downtown Camas. The Camas community is a hidden gem,” he said. “For us to be in downtown Camas is a blessing.”